March 16, 2023 | 4:05 p.m.
More than 2 tons of missing radioactive uranium have been found near a warehouse in southern Libya after its disappearance sparked nuclear security concerns, military officials said.
Khaled Mahjoub, spokesman for the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), said in a statement on Thursday that the 10 barrels had been recovered, although a video he shared shows workers counting 18 containers.
Some of the blue-painted barrels in the video displayed what appeared to be batch numbers.
However, the footage did not show the barrels being opened.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said in a confidential statement to member states seen by Reuters that its inspectors reported the disappearance of around 2.5 tonnes of uranium during a check at an unspecified site in the war-torn country on Tuesday. .
According to the IAEA, the facility is located in an area not under the control of the national unity government in Tripoli and requires “complex logistics” to access.
Mahjoub said the site was a warehouse near the border with Chad that the IAEA last visited in 2020 and sealed with red wax.
The barrels were discovered abandoned about 3 miles from the storage facility.
He speculated that a group of separatist fighters from Chad raided the warehouse and stole the barrels, hoping they might contain weapons or ammunition, but then abandoned them.
The IAEA said it was aware of media reports that the uranium had been found and was working to verify it.
The UN agency earlier warned that the missing uranium could pose a threat to nuclear security.
Although natural uranium ore cannot be used immediately to make a nuclear bomb, a group armed with the necessary expertise and equipment, including centrifuges, could refine each ton of material into 12 pounds of weapons-grade uranium.
The LNA, commanded by warlord Khalifa Haftar, fought rival Western forces until 2020, before a ceasefire was declared, leaving the country divided.
Control of the country is shared between the internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, led by President of the Presidential Council of the Libyan State Mohamed al-Menfi, and the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk.
With post wires